Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fortnightly Book, August 19

The next two books continue this year's reading of Jules Verne: The Mighty Orinoco and Invasion of the Sea. Thematically they do not, as far as I know, have much to do with each other -- one is about a river journey in a rainforest and the other about an engineering project in the desert -- but they do share two things: they are both fairly late in the Voyages extraordinaires (#45 and #54 respectively), and they have only fairly recently received any kind of good English translation, in Wesleyan University Press's Early Classics of Science Fiction series.

The Mighty Orinoco, first published in 1898, is about Jean, who is searching for a vanished father; a quest that, of course, takes Jean on a journey up the Orinoco River of Venezuela. Verne connects this geographical structure with a geographical question in some dispute at the time, connected to the question of the sources of the river -- Does the Orinoco originally flow east to west or from the southwest? But there is more to Jean than meets the eye; people are not always as they seem to be. The translation is by Stanford Luce, with notes by Walter James Miller.

Invasion of the Sea, the last of the Voyages extraordinaires finished and published by Verne in his lifetime, is a rare Verne novel that is deliberately and explicitly futuristic in both chronology and technology; published in 1905, it takes place in the 1930s. It describes a conflict that arises between the French, who want to create an inland sea in the Sahara, and the Tuareg Berbers, who regard the project as a threat to their existence. Like a number of later works, it contrasts the ultimate irresistibility of nature with the tenuous nature of our conquest of it. It is translated by Edward Baxter, with notes by Arthur B. Evans.

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